Say the word ‘chia’ and some people will picture the ceramic pet that sat on their childhood home’s kitchen window sill and sprouted green, leafy locks. That’s not what we’re talking about here.
Chia—itty-bitty seeds that are typically black, goldish, or gray—were apparently eaten by the ancient Aztecs, and have become a favorite superfood today. They’re so popular, in fact, that we’ve seen four-pound bags of them being sold at wholesale stores.
The nutritional stats of these little guys live up to the hype: Just two tablespoons of chia seeds contain six grams of fiber and four grams of protein. They also pack between 14 and 18 percent of your daily calcium, iron, and magnesium needs, says the National Institute of Health.
“Plus, chia seeds contain omega-3s, an essential fatty acid we can only get from food, which supports our brains, and immune and digestive systems,” says Jaclyn Jacobsen, R.D., in-house dietitian for The Vitamin Shoppe.
Chia seeds are an easy addition to any smoothie or bowl of oatmeal, but the tiny powerhouses can be used in so many other ways, too.
Vegans and egg-o-phobes (oh yes, they exist) often use ground flax seeds to make egg substitutes when baking. To make a ‘chia egg,’ mix 1 tablespoon chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water and let sit for 20 minutes. The outer layer of chia seeds absorbs water, swelling to form a gel.
Mix ground chia seeds with almond flower to make a gluten-free breading for your favorite chicken or fish dishes. You can also sub chia seeds for breadcrumbs in meatball recipes.
Chia Protein Pudding
Mix 1/3 cup chia seeds, 1 tablespoon almond butter, 1 ½ cups water, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ cup chocolate protein powder, and a pinch of salt. Refrigerate mixture for at least 20 minutes to allow the chia seeds to absorb water and create that pudding-like consistency.
Combine a few tablespoons of chia seeds with coconut water and let sit for 20 minutes. This homemade energy gel packs more nutrients than many store-bought brands—plus, no artificial ingredients.
Blend 1 cup strawberries, 2 tablespoons chia seeds, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, a pinch of cinnamon, and 2 pipettes of plnt liquid stevia. Refrigerate for 20 minutes and you’ve got a fruit spread without the added sugar. “Chia jam is nice and thick, and spreads really well,” says Jacobsen.
Swap chia seeds in for corn starch or other thickening agents in recipes. Add chia seeds gradually to soups or gravies until you reach the desired thickness.
Chia Pancakes Or Waffles
Mix chia seeds into your go-to pancake or waffle batter for a more nutritious breakfast treat.
Chia Ice Cream
When making homemade ice cream, ‘nice cream’ made of frozen bananas, or popsicles, add a few spoonfuls of chia seeds to your mixture before freezing.
Pin this handy graphic and get experimenting with those chia seeds!